Judy Young is a force to be reckoned with in the pool. This year alone, she has won seven first-place medals and set six age-group records in the seven events she has competed in, including the 50, 100, and 200-meter backstroke and the 50, 100, 200, and 500 yard freestyle.
But Young is not just any athlete. Born in 1926, she’s a 96-year-old swimmer who isn’t letting her age stop her from winning gold or setting new records at YMCA national swim meets.
Young tells us that she has loved swimming since she was a child. “My sons eventually joined me in the swim lane, and at one point we were even on the same team and competed together,” she says. Although she had been swimming for over half a century, it wasn’t until the late 80s that she began to do so competitively, qualifying locally and eventually nationally. “And I haven’t stopped since,” she reveals.
Today, she says she swims regularly at her local YMCA, noting that she also volunteered at the Y for years, and was secretary to the general manager from 1971 to 1987. “I go to the YMCA twice a week to swim, in addition to swimming competitively in YMCA leagues,” she says. “I’m focusing on freestyle and backstroke, and preparing to compete in the 2023 Senior Games – the Nationals are in Pittsburgh this year.”
How does she manage to continue at such a high level? Luckily for us, she shared her top five tips for living a long, healthy life.
1. Do some kind of physical exercise every day
As the saying goes: move to stay moving. “Staying active is an absolute must,” says Young. “I recently had surgery and the doctor told me the reason I was able to recover so quickly is that I have led a very active and healthy life.”
2. Alternate between aerobic workouts and strength workouts, and don’t forget to rest
Staying active doesn’t mean you have to follow a rigorous workout plan every day. Young says making time for aerobic exercise (like swimming, walking, biking, and rowing) as well as strength training (like weightlifting) is the most comprehensive fitness-focused lifestyle. .
However, don’t force yourself to train seven days a week. “My key to avoiding injury is to stay active but be patient with recovery,” Young says. She says she was able to come back from hip replacement surgery in 2019 by diligently following her physiotherapy program and waiting to resume swimming until she got the all-clear from her physiotherapist.
3. Exercise outdoors when the weather permits, especially walking
No matter your age, Young proves that regular hot girl walks can be beneficial. In addition to boosting cardiovascular health, exercising outdoors increases vitamin D levels, which can do wonders for your mood, especially during the darker winter months.
4. Don’t forget mental fitness
Your body isn’t the only thing you need to worry about to stay fit as you age. “Strengthen your mind by playing cards, reading, or doing puzzles,” says Young.
(Looking for inspiration? Regular habit and piecework puzzles have great options that double as artwork and coffee table displays.)
5. Enjoy the process
As hard as you may try, you can’t hate yourself in a fitter lifestyle. If you despise the process, you are unlikely to stick to it. That’s why Young stresses the importance of finding an activity you enjoy.
“My biggest advice to any swimmer or anyone looking to get into swimming is to enjoy it,” she says. “Swimming is great not only because it’s gentle on the joints, but also because it combines the best of aerobics and general exercise. It all comes down to my lifelong love of swimming and staying active – I keep doing it because I love it.
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